Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin announced Friday that the state’s presidential primary will be delayed two months as the country braces for the coronavirus outbreak to intensify.
“Louisiana is no stranger to natural disasters,” he said at a press conference. “While hurricanes, floods and tornadoes are at the forefront of all Louisianians’ minds, the threat we face from the COVID-19 virus is an unprecedented threat and unlike any we have faced.”
He said that the presidential primary will be delayed from April 4 until June 20. The local municipal general elections, initially scheduled for May 9, will be rescheduled to July 25.
He pointed to the section of state law that lets the governor announce a delay in elections if the secretary of state certifies that there is a state of emergency that warrants such measures. He said that the Governor John Bel Edwards’ office was “relieved” when he called with the conclusion that the delay was the only feasible option.
“The Governor and the Secretary of State began this discussion of delaying the primary several days ago out of concern for the aging population of poll workers and a desire to prevent the spread of illness,” Christina Stephens, Edwards’ deputy chief of staff, told TPM. “We are experiencing community spread of coronavirus in Louisiana and the Governor is taking decisive action to slow its progress.”
She added that the governor will sign the executive order later Friday afternoon.
Ardoin confirmed during his press conference that a big part of the calculus in pushing back the election is the fact that “over half” of the elections commissioners are 65 and older, and that 32 polling places are in nursing homes or senior centers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that older adults are particularly at risk for serious illness from COVID-19.
He added that switching to a mail-in ballot system was considered, but that it would have been “impossible” to build up the needed infrastructure in such a short period. In Louisiana currently, you must have an excuse to vote by mail, including temporary absence from the state (like a typical absentee ballot) or old age.
“We can pull off elections after disasters,” he said. “But we need more time than 30 or 60 days.”